On December 22, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that oral arguments would be held on January 7, 2022 regarding legal challenges to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
This past November, the Biden administration imposed employee vaccination mandates on two huge swaths of the American economy. The first mandate—the large employer mandate—requires workers at private employers with at least 100 employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations or to be tested for the coronavirus on a weekly basis. The mandate applies to religious employers as well as secular ones. It also requires employers to ascertain employees’ vaccination status and to enforce a mask mandate for employees who have opted not to be vaccinated. The second mandate—the health care worker mandate—requires the staff of health care providers that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Employees may obtain medical and religious exemptions to the health care worker mandate.
Both the large employer mandate and the health care worker mandate have been the subject of multiple lawsuits, and federal appeals courts have reached varying conclusions as to their legality. Due to the pending litigation, neither mandate is being enforced yet. According to CNN, the large employer mandate would affect approximately 80 million employees and the health care worker mandate would affect more than 10.3 million.
For several reasons, President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for large employers and for health care workers should be struck down by the Supreme Court. On January 7, the Court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuits challenging the two mandates.
By implementing the mandates via executive action instead of recognizing the policymaking authority of Congress, President Biden has taken a Cuomonian approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States is a republic, not a dictatorship. The mandates also utilize a top-down approach that fails to recognize state sovereignty. The large employer mandate’s 100-employee threshold is blatantly arbitrary; why is a federal vaccine mandate needed for an employer with 105 employees, but not for an employer with 95? Both large employers and health care providers are concerned that the mandates could cause an exodus of employees; rural health care providers, in particular, fear that staffing shortages may result. Alliance Defending Freedom has challenged the large employer mandate on constitutional grounds due to its potential impact upon employees and upon large faith-based employers. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, alongside our family policy council allies across the country, filed an amicus brief opposing the Biden mandates on religious liberty grounds.
While the recent uptick in COVID-19 infections is a serious public health concern, the approach that the Biden administration has taken to address that concern is misguided. It is hoped that the Supreme Court will throw out the Biden administration’s overreaching vaccine mandates.